Caring for Elderly Parents - 7 Conversations you should have!

Updated 28/11/2018

Shouldn't caring for elderly parents be the responsibility of their children?    I had to care for my parents, and I expect and hope that my children will care enough to either take care of me when I need it or if that's not possible to ensure care is put in place when the time is right.

Caring for elderly parents  will be so much easier if you have  had discussions with them about their wishes of what they would like and expect from you when they can no longer manage on their own through illness or increasing fraility.

7 Conversations to have with your Elderly Parents:-

  1. Do they wish to stay in their current home long term or would they consider downsizing into a  retirement  apartment or bungalow or

  2. if you live a distance apart would they consider moving nearer to you.

  3. Discuss the advantages of having a Power of Attorney in place should they become too ill to handle their own fnancial affairs.

  4. Ensure  there is a Will in place and you know where it is kept.

  5. Discuss their financial status so that you know what they can and cannot afford ie. extra help at home,  live in care or residential when the time comes.

  6. Discuss  what benefits they could claim if necessary like Attendance Allowance, Pension Credit, Council Tax Benefit etc.

  7. Discuss the type of care they would prefer should the need arise.

When caring for elderly parents It's a good idea to get a list of Care Homes (from your local Council) and even visit those you can with your parents if possible so that if and when a need arises you have a list to contact.

Being prepared will hopefully avoid the situation  that I'm witnessing now with an elderly friend.

The Result of not caring for elderly parents

I'm feeling really sad for my friend and angry  at the attitude of an elderly friend's family who seem to be oblivious to her true situation.

A lady in her late 80's who is partially sighted (slowly going blind with Glucoma) and recently had a cateract removed which does not appear to have improved her sight at all.  We'll call her Dorothy to protect her identity. 

She has lived in the same Village all her married life and since her Husband died some years ago has coped well on her own with a little help from neighbours and friends when necessary. 

Earlier in the summer she fell at home and badly broke her right arm (she's right handed).  Unfortunately it became clear that she was going to be unable to do anything much for herself with her right arm encased in a heavy plaster and limited eyesight.  She couldn't dress herself, wash herself, prepare food for herself or carry out any of the necessary household tasks.

Friends duly contacted her  family two daughters that both live a distance away.  The eldest came briefly for a couple of days with the intention of finding respite care for Dorothy in a local care home.   Unfortunately at such short notice there was only one care home that could offer her a place and Dorothy didn't like it so she ended up back at home and said Daughter  returned home leaving her to cope on her own.

Friends and neighbours with the help of the local GP managed to get a care package  put in place for Dorothy to have carers coming in morning and evening and with the addition of  some ready prepared meals in the freezer she was able to get by.

However as the summer went on she started to become very frail suffering from several urinary tract infections which resulted in the need for  two separate respite stays in another local Care Home arranged long distance on the phone by one of her daughter's.  Unfortunately the level of care was not as expected and she  detriorated at quite an alarming rate and is now in Hospital.

Her Daughters have both been up briefly.  A month has gone by and she continues to lie in  hospital while her family fail to visit on a regular basis.  They don't seem to consider the practical matters of her house needing attention or the fact that she needs  her laundry done for her  and clean clothes taking in.  Caring for elderly parents is never going to be easy but it is a duty and responsibility that we should  all be prepared to do.

The time has come I'm afraid when Dorothy's  daughters need to make some decisions for her future wellbeing  should she be well enough to come out of hospital.  They appear to be at a complete loss as to the best way forward and what's worse is  they disagree on any course of action to resolve the matter.   In the unlikely event that she makes some level of recovery where she is able to return home  the house is  totally unsuitable for someone so frail.

Furthermore Dorothy is becoming increasingly confused and they have no Power of Attorney in place.  They have no idea of how to move forward so their preferred stance is to retreat and return home.

They don't even seem to be aware of the struggle Dorothy has had for the last 2-3 years to maintain her independence.  Although Dorothy says they ring her every day and ask her how she is she is a very proud lady and won't admit that she needs help.  Her  response to such questions is usually "oh I'm fine" even when she's not.

Neither daughter has been a regular visitor to her house, the home where they grew up in.  If they had they would have seen that she was not  coping very well even before her fall. 

Most of Dorothy's friends and neighbours worry about her and do what they can to help her but at the end of the day it's the family's responsibility to either take care of their elderly mother or ensure she has the necessary care package in place for her needs.

Caring for elderly parents is always hard especially when we all have busy lives but we mustn't lose sight of the fact that our parents probably made great sacrifices for us as we grew up and eventually there is a pay back time and when they become old and vulnerable they need us.

Updated 28th November 2018

Since writing this Article Dorothy died yesterday peacefully in her sleep on her own in a Hospital Bed.   It was her 89th birthday the previous day the 26th November.  One of  her Daughters and her Husband joined myself and another friend to mark the occasion.  The other Daughter had planned to come tomorrow but it's all too little too late.  So sad.

RIP Dorothy.

Caring for elderly parents in other cultures around the world is the natural way of the circle of life.  They value their elderly and take them into their homes to care for them treating them with respect and dignity whereas  in the UK  it seems that society sees the elderly as a nuisance and a burden to be got rid of as soon as possible.  We constantly hear of elderly people living lonely lives with  no family to care what happens to them. 

That's why it makes me really sad and angry when I see someone who does have family that appear not to care as much as they say they do. 

If you're caring for elderly parents keep in touch regularly.  Telephoning all the time is not enough.   By visiting often you will be aware of any derioration in their health or the way they are managing in their day to day life.  There are things that can be put in place to ease the transition from being fit and healthly and living totally independent to them needing help and support.

If you're lucky enough to still have your parents around  don't neglect them there will come a time when they are no longer with you.  Will you be able to put your hand on your heart and say "I did the best I could for them?"

Have the conversations with them when the time is right but don't leave it until it's all to late.  Caring for elderly parents is our opportunity to say thank you to them for the care and support they've given us.

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